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What was life like for a soldier in World War I?I need to write a letter and here are...

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reem1994 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 23, 2009 at 6:48 PM via web

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What was life like for a soldier in World War I?

I need to write a letter and here are the instructions:

Pretend you are a soldier in the World War I, and you have been away from your family for three months. Write a letter telling your family about your life in the war. Describe what you see, hear, and experience.  Most importantly, however, describe how you feel. Your letter should contain real events and history.

I really need help with this letter. I just need hints or examples or information anything so I would get a clue of what is going on. Thank you :)

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ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 9, 2009 at 2:30 AM (Answer #1)

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In terms of their daily life, soldiers in World War I shared a great deal in common with those who fought in earlier wars.  Soldiers had to deal constantly with the possibility of being killed in action.  In World War I, casualties were seen on unprecedented scales.  At Verdun in 1916, more than 600,000 soldiers died.  This total was not unique.  At the first battle of the Marne in 1915, soldiers died on a similar scale.  World War I saw the widespread implementation of new and more efficient methods of conducting warfare:  chemical warfare (mustard gas), tanks, grenades, and air warfare.  All of this meant death was an ever-present reality.  In addition to these concerns, soldiers had to confront the cold, wet environment, as well as the numerous rats in the trenches.  The cold and wet in the trenches was only aggravated by the wool uniforms soldiers wore.  For these reasons, disease was just as much of a concern as the military realities of war.

Most of a soldier's time in the trenches was spent waiting - waiting for the call to go "over the top" into "No Man's Land."   Whiling away the time, soldiers wrote home concerning their experiences, and many letters survive which detail the daily concerns preoccupying soldiers in the trenches.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 9, 2009 at 3:05 AM (Answer #2)

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A prevalent feeling among both the citizenry and the military was disillusionment.  For, they had believed that the war begun in August, 1914, would be concluded by Christmas of that year. Instead, the war turned into a stalemate as neither the Germans nor the French could dislodge each other from the trenches.

Battlefields were hellish landscapes of barbed wire, shell holes,mud, and injured and dying men.  One British writer described them in this manner:

I wish those people who write so glibly about this being a holy war could see a case of mustard gas...could see the poor things burnt and blistered all over with great mustard-coloured suppurating [pus-forming] blisters with blind eyes all sticky...and stuck together, and always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke.

The knowledge that neither side was going to drive out the other led to a malaise among the soldiers who spent dreary, lice-ridden days in muddy or dusty trenches.  They developed a "live and let live" system based on this realization of a stalement.  Such a system allowed no shelling of latrines and no attacking at breakfast time or on holidays. And, in an effort to relieve the malaise of long, empty and fearful days, troops often produced humor magazines to help pass the time and to provide laughter as a relief from the horrible conditions of this trench fighting in which multitudes lost their lives.

 

 

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